The Geneticist’s Book Offers a Scientific Arsenal for Discussions with Racists – 03/21/2021 – Science

“This book is a weapon”, writes the geneticist and British communicator Adam Rutherford directly in the first sentence of the introduction of his recent work entitled “How to argue with a racist” (“How to argue with a racist”) without the Brazilian version) ). Here’s a start that does what it says on the tin.

Short, agile, full of memorable forms of expression and angry good mood. The book is probably the best arsenal available for separating what science actually knows about human racial differences from those who have gained momentum – and indeed rejuvenated political muscles – in the field. around the world.

In many ways, Rutherford may be the ideal subject for this mission. His mother, granddaughter of Indians, was born in Guyana and came to the UK in the 1960s, while his white father came from a family in northern England.

In addition to this mixed family heritage, he trained as a researcher at UCL (University College London), one of the cradles of “scientific racism” in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He even worked at the Galton Laboratory – baptized, of course, in honor of Francis Galton (1822-1911), the subject that coined the term “eugenics,” something like the improvement of animals and plants through crossbreeding that applies only to humans.

“I am the evolutionary descendant of colonialism, imperialism, racism and some very hateful ideologies. In a way, all of my multiple lineages – biological, cultural, and scientific – inevitably collided, ”summarizes Rutherford.

And it got worse when the author, when he started bringing up the book’s subjects on the radio, on television, and in his writing, became a target of people calling him “paki” (although he is not of Pakistani descent), ” Jewish “rat” (because of the family of his father’s second wife of Jewish origin) and “traitor of the race”.

“Suddenly it seems politically controversial to declare yourself anti-racist,” he stated in an interview with the Audible audio book platform. However, this position is not scientifically controversial, as the arguments of the book make clear (see some of them below).

Like any good geneticist, Rutherford knows that almost all human traits are affected to some extent by the DNA we carry, and he also knows that certain variants of DNA are more common in certain ethnic groups than others.

However, none of these obviousnesses warrant us to believe that the limited list of “races” we have learned to recognize at the base of the eyepiece – whites, blacks, Asians, Indians, etc. – corresponds to a clear biological essence. he explains.

First of all, we are all Africans, considering the recent origins of the species Homo sapiens. In fact, the human genetic diversity that exists outside of Africa is little more than a subset of that existing on the supposed “black continent”, because all non-African people come from a small subgroup that has left behind most of their relatives, by colonizing the rest of the world.

And a discovery made in the 1970s using rudimentary methods is essentially still valid: the majority of the variability in human DNA (greater than 80%) exists within such “races” rather than in comparison to one another.

In addition, a few simple accounts, as well as some basic biology and history facts, are enough to demonstrate how hugely stupid the concept of ethnic “purity” is.

To exist, we all need two parents, four grandparents, eight great-grandparents, 16 great-grandparents, and so on. If this past doubling of ancestors continued indefinitely, we would have 1 trillion ancestors in 1020 AD – which is obviously absurd since the number is ten times the number of all humans who have ever existed.

How can this paradox be resolved? The obvious answer is that we are all more or less close or distant relatives, and that the lineages of our ancestors converge and blend in retreat, recalls Rutherford.

This means, for example, that all Europeans today are descended from all people in Europe who had descendants in the 10th century AD, and that all people today descend from all people who left descendants about 3,400 years ago. In other words, genetic isolation is a myth that needs to be dropped.

And that also means that genomic ancestry tests mean a lot less than most people realize.

“It came here that I have 2% Viking ancestry!” Says the unwary to get the results. Yes, it’s true – you and literally everyone of European descent in the world.

And as the author points out, such tests are highly dependent on a number of factors: the original sample used to compare against the user’s DNA (generally with much more data on populations originating in Europe), and the fact that the kinship “Detected” refers to the current location of certain groups rather than the places they could have occupied hundreds or thousands of years ago.

Discussions about the alleged “African” sporting superiority (again a term so broad that it has almost no meaning) and the intellectual advantages of European Jews over the rest of the world conclude the book with a golden key.

To sum up the opera: 1) We still know very little about how athleticism and intelligence are influenced by DNA, other than that hundreds or even thousands of different genes have different effects on these traits. 2) never attribute solely to heredity, which can be explained by culture and social conditions.

Would these reasonable arguments be enough to convince a “thoroughbred” racist (no pun intended) of anything? Hardly, but Rutherford targets the undecided who reproduce discourses riddled with scientific racism without realizing that they are. Worth a try.

How to argue with a racist
Author Adam Rutherford. Weidenfeld & Nicolson Verlag. R $ 26.30 (eBook); 137 pages

How to overthrow four racist myths about human DNA

Racial stereotypes are not supported by modern genomics

MYTH 1
It is easy to classify people into “traditional” races (white, black, oriental, etc.) using DNA analysis

The facts
This classification depends on the number of groups that the computer programs used for this task initially set up, and on the segments of DNA used in the analysis. Indeed, the genetic diversity within each “race” is greater than that registered between “races”, and the boundaries between them are gradual, not clear, and delimited

MYTH 2
IQ test results show that blacks are less intelligent than whites for genetic reasons

The facts
Intelligence is heavily influenced by genetic factors, but the environment affects so much that IQ readings change from generation to generation and when immigrants arrive in a new country, making the association of the results with DNA suspect.

MYTH 3
Blacks dominate athletics because they have genes that make them faster and / or more resilient

The facts
If only variants of some of the genes associated with muscle explosion could explain this success, blacks would also be the main masters of swimming, which is not the case. Historical and athletic structural factors are likely to influence several aspects of these results

MYTH 4
DNA testing can reveal exactly where they came from and who a person’s ancestors were

The facts
Many populations around the world have not yet been tested for genetic material. In addition, migrations, wars, and other factors make it possible to tell where groups genetically close to a person live today, but not necessarily where they lived in the past, especially those descended from enslaved Africans

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